First Horse Inspection at Pau CCI5* is Almost, But Not Quite, Sans Incident

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Daytime? I don’t know her. Alex Bragg and King of the Mill navigate the trot strip in the hazy morning light of the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s so much comfort to be taken in familiarity, and every event has its own little hallmarks that help us all remember where on earth we are as a season of globetrotting wends its way to its end. At Burnham Market, you can guarantee there’ll be at least a flurry of snow, even if the rest of the country is in the middle of a heat wave; at Little Downham, the local blackfly population will have all scheduled in their C-sections for cross-country day, and you’ll celebrate many millions of tiny, irritating births as you stomp across the course. At Boekelo, you’ll push through your week in a constant low-ebb hangover; at Luhmühlen, you’ll forever hear a bass-heavy Europop soundtrack in the distance, and you’ll never know whether it’s actually being played on a loop or if you’ve just quietly started to lose your mind. (The answer is a bit of both, and that’s okay.) And at Pau? You know you’ve arrived at France’s much-loved and ineffably weird CCI5* when you’re squinting into the darkness to try to spot a horse being trotted up before the ground jury. Why wait for the sun to rise when there’s so much fun to be had, after all?

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Cooley Quicksilver will tackle the horse’s sophomore CCI5* this week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

47 horse and rider combinations representing nine countries came forward at the crack of dawn (okay, a very sultry 8.30 a.m.) to present to the ground jury, made up of president Christina Klingspor (SWE), Andrew Bennie (NZL), and Emmanuelle Olier (FRA). All of them would go on to be accepted into the competition, which starts in earnest this afternoon with the first session of dressage, though there was some minor drama along the way: Ringwood Madras, the debutant mount of Great Britain’s Izzy Taylor, was sent to the holding box, while Ireland’s Joseph Murphy had to trot Gorsehill Pearl twice before ultimately being accepted.

Izzy Taylor and Ringwood Madras are the sole pair sent to the holding box. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Now, our riders have a few hours to enjoy the sunshine and crepe or three before dressage gets underway this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. local time/2.30 p.m. UK/9.30 a.m. Eastern. Just 12 combinations will ride their tests today, but it’s a seriously exciting bunch: Britain’s under-25 national champion Bubby Upton makes the first of her two five-star debut rides, coming forward with her Young Rider silver medallist Cola, while William Fox-Pitt will pilot OratorioOliver Townend finds himself in the trailblazer position with former mount Ridire Dorcha, with whom he’s contesting his first international event since 2017, and two of the home side will come forward in Cyrielle Lefevre, riding Armanjo Serosah, and Florian Ganneval, riding Blue Bird de Beaufour. You can find the dressage times in full here, and to follow along with all the action as it happens, head to Horse&CountryTV, which will also be streaming the event’s top-level singles combined driving competition.

Jonelle Price shares a laugh with the ground jury as she present McClaren for his five-star debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Stay tuned today, as we’ll be bringing you an in-depth look at all our competitors, plus a full report and gallery from this afternoon’s initial session of competition. We’ve got a super field of entries here, but the competition is wide open — so we’re expecting the final CCI5* of 2021 to bring wall-to-wall excitement as it plays out over the next few days. Keep the Bordeaux flowing and join us for the ride.

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